With passenger train services remaining indefinitely suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian Railways is staring at an estimated a loss of around Rs 40,000 crore this fiscal. To make good for this loss, the railways is aiming to increase its freight-loading target by 50 per cent from last year, Railway Board chairman V K Yadav said yesterday (Tuesday, 28th July 2020).
“The passenger segment is not doing well, everybody knows. We are just running 230 trains and they are hardly full. We do not know how the corona (pandemic) will unfold. But we are expecting only 10-15 per cent earnings from passenger segment and that means around Rs 35-40,000 crore we will lose. We are trying to make up for that through freight revenue,” Yadav said in an online interaction with the media.
This fiscal, the transporter has so far carried 322 million tonnes of freight, which is around 19 per cent less than the same period last year. It has also carried 27 per cent less coal and around 24 per cent less cement, but 80 per cent more food grains! As the lockdown disrupted the road-sector goods movement, the government relied on railways to carry food grains.
“We have transported all the coal required by thermal power plants. We see a trend that consumption of coal by power plants has decreased. So, with various measures, we are trying to broaden our freight basket and increase our freight loading,” Yadav said.
Since the lockdown, Railways has taken five strategic tariff measures to boost its freight business. They include discounts, and long-lead and short-lead concessions to various sectors between 15 and 50 per cent, depending on distances transported. It has also taken around eight sector-specific policy business decisions to create a more enabling environment for certain classes of goods to be transported by rail, and has set up multi-disciplinary business development units at all levels to bring in more businesses.
“Some of the policies had been in vogue for years. Through business development units, we are widening our freight basket and we have already seen a 23 per cent jump in the ‘other goods’ segment that we carry,” said P S Mishra Railway Board Member, Traffic.